We crossed the border from Thailand to Laos.
We bought our ticket to Luang Prabang, Laos, in Chiang Rai and we would be escorted from our Hostel to the city that is a UNESCO heritage site. Unlike when we traveled by car, we had not researched anything, just whether it was possible to obtain a visa on arrival.
It was not yet six in the morning when the owner of the Hostel where we were staying knocked on the door to go down, our transport had arrived. A van with 12 seats, but we still had to fill 8. We started our journey through other hostels and the driver was talking fast, he seemed nervous. Always asking everyone for their passports and making sure we had dollars to pay for the visa at the border. 3 kms before he stopped at a pump, made sure we had everything and told us what it would be like when we arrived.
We got our passport stamped out of Thailand, we got on a bus that we like to call no man's land and we left again at the Laos border, they gave us our visa on the spot and we paid 35$ each. We take the opportunity to spend the last baht (Thai currency) on coffee and cigarettes and exchange it for Kip (Lao currency) the conversion is easy 1€ = 10,000 kip. We are millionaires! From there we boarded a Tuk-tuk with our 10 travel companions. They explain to us that they already have our boat tickets, that we have the seats secured and that they will take us to a cafe where we can relax until the time of the boat.
They take us to what we assume to be one of them's house, it has an improvised mini market with water, juices and snacks and three ladies who make baguettes with omolette and chicken. Meanwhile, another one arrives that recommends us to buy food because there is no food on the boat, that in the city where we are going there is no money but that we can exchange it there and that if we want to book a Hostel for the place where the first stop is, she knows a very good place. ahahaha! What a well-established business, that's what is called in the economy of vertical concentration. We accept the overnight stay because the price is good and so we don't have to worry about it. And we go to the boat, when we arrive they give us the tickets, supposedly the places are guaranteed. But that doesn't have any marked places and although we got along well, the reality is that we've been deceived.
The boat starts to move and it's freaking cold, I have no position, I try to sleep, nothing. It's gonna be 7 hours of hell. A huge anxiety, I don't know if because I'm in the water in an old boat that makes noises all over the place, I never get that way with long trips. But I felt terrible.
In the meantime, I fall asleep there for about 10 minutes, we watch a movie, we try to watch another one, I get up to go to the bathroom, there are people drinking, playing cards, laughing, many met there on the boat. But I'm really feeling bad, very anxious and I don't feel like talking to anyone. Time seems to freeze, what a hell of a showboat idea. And it's going to be two days of this. Where did I put myself. So I miss the van. I sit on the floor, cover my eyes, try to sleep again. I'm going to buy French fries to help pass the time, the cookies we had brought are all gone. I follow the route we are taking on the map. From time to time the boat comes to the side and someone leaves. In the middle of nowhere.
And we arrived. On leaving the boat, in a small village, children ask tourists for everything they have: water, leftover juice, cookies,... the Tuk-tuk to the hotel is already waiting for us, it's right next door but the climb is steep and we appreciate it. We arrived at a modest room and dropped off our heavy backpacks. We quickly go to the village, pastry shops and shops selling essential goods for these tourists who only stay one night. In a bakery we are attended by three children, the oldest, 12 years old, prepares the food, the 10-year-old receives the money and the youngest, 8 years old, tries to get the others to play with him.
After a night of sleep, the next morning, the scene repeats itself, the boats leave, people are busy taking off their shoes before entering, tourists and locals settle down between the empty places, the backpacks make them lose their balance as they enter, some come with beer in hand. Others with children give the example that it is enough to want to travel. The day before we had already bought food which we hope will be enough. Water, cookies, bananas, orange, croissants, muffins and a loaf of bread.
The trip will be long, with luck we will be able to see some more elephants, pigs, goats, cows, which use the river as a drinking fountain. The village is deserted again, waiting for new tourists who will arrive at the end of the afternoon and who will fill with life. I return to my grief with the consolation that the trip will be shorter by an hour.